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BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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11 Sep 2017 U.S. Supreme Court is Asked to Answer the Question: What Do You Mean by ‘Sex’?

  We knew this question would be asked. On Sept. 7, a petition was filed in this country’s highest court, asking it to settle the ongoing debate of whether Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination includes discrimination based on sexual orientation.   The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit case, Jameka K. Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital, et al., involves a gay female security guard at a Georgia hospital who was allegedly harassed and not promoted because of her sexual orientation. She sued the hospital…

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31 Aug 2017 Lessons Learned: As Flu Shot Season Approaches, Inflexible Rules Can Cause Accommodation Headaches

  It’s the end of summer. Our children are returning to school, the evenings are turning a bit cool and hospitals are educating their workforces on mandatory flu vaccination programs.   Each year at about this time, we look to recent court decisions for guidance on how best to balance a hospital’s interest in protecting its patients (among other things) with a healthcare worker’s sincerely held religious belief that conflicts with the hospital’s requirement that its employees  get the flu vaccine.   Last summer, I…

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17 Aug 2017 Seventh Circuit Says EEOC May Press on With Enforcement Efforts After Right-to-Sue

  In a matter of first impression for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (which covers Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana), the Court considered whether the EEOC’s authority terminates upon its issuance of a “right to sue” letter or the dismissal of a subsequent lawsuit on the merits. The Court’s decision in EEOC v. Union Pac. R.R. Co., arose out of the EEOC’s efforts to enforce a subpoena in a matter in which a “right to sue” letter had been issued (after the…

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08 Aug 2017 Sexual Orientation: DOJ and EEOC Take Opposite Positions in Amicus Briefs Filed in Same Case

  In a bizarre twist, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Department of Justice (DOJ) have each filed amicus briefs on opposite sides of a sexual orientation discrimination case involving Title VII. Since 2013, the EEOC has consistently taken the position that Title VII prohibits sexual orientation discrimination.   As we have covered in past posts, there have been a number of recent decisions regarding whether Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination also prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In particular, the…

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18 Jul 2017 Sticks and Stones: When Texts and Emails Will Hurt You

  Sticks and stones may break my bones But words will never hurt me   Recent legal decisions painfully remind us that words, specifically words in a text, instant message or email, can derail an employer’s position or defense.  The informality of these electronic communications tends to create the mindset that they are less subject to exposure or scrutiny than a formal written letter or memorandum.   In a recent case, Martin v. Tall Brown Dog, LLC, the plaintiff was a recently hired leadership/business development…

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07 Jul 2017 Firing an Employee? Avoid Litigation by Carefully Reviewing the Issues

Many times before proceeding with a termination, an employer will call on its counsel and explain the rationale for the decision to avoid potential legal issues if it should follow through on firing an employee. As labor and employment attorneys, this is what we would call “best practices”: Having a third-party neutral review the decision for the termination, play devil’s advocate, and determine if there may be some other reason for the decision that could lead to a claim of discrimination or retaliation.   Other…

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05 Jun 2017 Court Invites EEOC’s Opinion on Whether Title VII Prohibits Sexual Orientation Discrimination

  We recently updated you on the Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc., case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The Second Circuit granted en banc review of the plaintiff’s claim to consider whether Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Now the court has taken an additional step of inviting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to give its two cents.   The EEOC is already on record in other courts arguing that Title VII covers sexual orientation…

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26 May 2017 Second Circuit Takes Second Look at Sexual Orientation Discrimination Under Title VII

  The issue of whether Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is in the hot seat once again, this time being considered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit as part of an en banc rehearing granted in Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc. d/b/a Skydive Long Island. The grant of the rehearing, to include all active judges and those senior judges involved in the original appeal, comes after the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New…

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19 Apr 2017 Court Tells Skydiver’s Estate It Won’t Reconsider Title VII Claim

  On April 18, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit declined to reconsider the estate of deceased skydiver Donald Zarda’s Title VII claim against former employer Altitude Express. Zarda filed suit claiming his employment was terminated because of his sexual orientation. Although his New York state law claim was explicitly based on sexual orientation, his Title VII claim was characterized as a sex discrimination claim.   The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York granted summary judgment to Altitude…

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29 Sep 2016 EEOC Continues Fight Against Mandatory Flu Vaccinations for Healthcare Workers

  Just as another flu season is upon us, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is ramping up its battle against mandatory healthcare workers influenza vaccination programs by filing at least its third lawsuit this year on the subject of accommodations for individuals who profess religious objections to being vaccinated.   In EEOC v. St. Vincent Health Center, the EEOC is alleging that a Pennsylvania healthcare organization failed to accommodate the religious beliefs of six healthcare workers who sought exemptions from mandatory flu shots…

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